‘I have a lot of make-up. There are several bags, a couple of drawers, plus some boxes under the bed that scream “hoarder”. And do you know what makes every lipstick, mascara, eyeshadow quad and bronzer utterly, enjoyably wonderful? They’re for me and me alone, to delve into as I please. A light-reflecting highlighter to mimic Gigi Hadid’s latest campaign? I have it. The perfect taupe contour stick to create Helena Christensen-esque cheekbones? I possess two. Nail-art pens to pull off the latest Insta-worthy looks? In various colours. An ink pen for drawing individual freckles? Yep, got that, too. Whenever the fancy takes me, I like having everything to hand in order to play and experiment.
‘In my view, make-up is a basic of self-care and self-esteem. If you aren’t wearing it for yourself, who are you wearing it for? The transformative power of my cosmetic bag is emotional and psychological first, and visible second. I might take my time over a statement lip or the symmetry of a feline flick if I’m presenting for work, but it’s about ramping up my confidence – not how it may be perceived.
‘Research has suggested that many men prefer it when women wear less make-up, and while one of the looks I like to think I’ve perfected is the “no make-up make-up” one, I don’t do it to catch anyone’s attention other than my own. Likewise, you’re not going to find me glueing on false lashes so I can flutter them at someone else.
‘The truth is, when I wear make-up it’s 100% for me. Though I may be creating a look – a statement, even – on the outside, every slick of lippy, sweep of liner, drawn-on freckle and buffed-up brow is to make me feel better. Each item in my cosmetic bag is its own mood-boosting prescription. Expecting a crappy day at the office? Whack on that long-wear scarlet lipstick. Feel like you’re coming down with something? Linger over applying your base, so that you can fake a healthy glow, even if you aren’t feeling it. ‘While it’s always a treat to receive a compliment or feel admired, the magic of make-up, for me, is entirely personal.’
‘For a girls’ night, you’ll ramp up the effort. Buff on the new bronzer. Try out that statement lipstick. Why? You know that you’ll have an appreciative audience. And for work? Well, most of us like to look “polished”. Covering zits, erasing dark circles, swirling on a healthy glow from a bronzing palette… it all helps to up our office game. Because there’s no doubt that appearances do matter. In fact, some studies indicate that women who wear make-up are more likely to be successful career-wise. Does that feel oppressive? Perhaps a little. But not so much when you remember that men have to trim their eyebrows and attend to their whiskers. Plus, we’re not talking false lashes, big hair and a creosote fake tan – just the basics.
‘So, we present our “best faces” to our colleagues and friends. But is it also OK to be OK about making up for our partners/boyfriends/husbands? It seems so 1950s. So subservient. They should love us whatever we look like! Patchy eyebrows, Worzel Gummidge hair and bloodhound eyes? It’s all part of the “real” us.
‘These guys, however, are our most loyal allies. Don’t they deserve to (at least sometimes) see our best face? Isn’t sexual attraction fundamental to a relationship, and thus worth cultivating with a brush of mascara and a splodge of concealer? I don’t mean the full Lady Gaga; I’m talking about spritzing on the perfume you know he loves, wearing your hair up because your neck drives him crazy and maybe, just maybe, ditching the coral lipstick that reminds him of his great Aunt Marjorie. Not all the time, and not because you have to, but because you want to.
‘What I’m saying is: let’s not over-think it. Wearing kittenish eyeliner for date night or making sure your hair is devoid of cereal for work… it’s one human making an effort for another. Like putting flowers in the guest bedroom for your mother-in-law’s visit. Or not wearing the coat your kids find mortifying on the school run. Or getting in the rosé wine when your best friend has been ditched. Surely no one could argue with the morals of that.’